DIY Yards and Health

DIY Yards and Health
Helping the Do It Yourself home owner in making themselves and surroundings healthy

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December Quick Freeze

weather forcast
Wow what a Cold Front from Canada. This is the first time we've seen this in 16 years; however if you did your hedge pruning in October -had that warm up in November push new growth - you are going to see freeze burn on your shrubs. And this why we wait until the winter months to prune.

The other side is that we don't want to prune frozen  plants and crush a frozen cambium cell layer. This will leave a jagged edge that will not heal as quickly and may become infected with a bacteria. This is true with all plants ranging from trees to roses. If it froze last night but warmed up to above freeing by ten in the morning, you are probably safe by two o'clock to prune. You will be able to see the bad cut if it is still frozen.

Another thing to consider is that walking on frozen turf grass, as you prune your shrubs, will shatter the stem and often damage the grass. This will show the following spring.

The good thing about Idaho weather is it never last we stop in this weather and be ready for the next warm up. There's three months to work with so we just have to be patient.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Correct Hedge Pruning late in fall

ted pruning 
correct pruning
There is a correct time and way to prune hedges in the fall.
So many people are motivated when the leaves fall in September or October and start to do their fall yard work. They prune the hedges at that time because they are out there and the weather actually is pretty comfortable. The problem with that is the hedge had enough time to push new growth still and this growth will be very vulnerable to the first freeze and you will get a nasty burn on your plant that will look terrible in the spring.
The way to prevent burned shrubs is to prune them as late as you can in the fall. This usually means November when the temperatures are in the forties. Not as comfortable to work in but the chances of new growth are very limited.
You don't want to prune when the plant is frozen or when it is freezing. This can damage the cambium as you cut shattering the cell structure.
Ideally you want to prune when it is cold but not freezing and the weather forecast does not look like there will be any more warm-ups before winter sets in.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Worm Casting for your Garden

It's a bit of a smile when the most exciting thing in my life is to find a source for good worm castings (or to be less delicate - worm poop :)

But I am excited - we now have a source for a really great Garden/Plant/Tree Trench compost

What I especially like about this product is it starts with Peat Moss - that is fed to worms which digest it and break it down even further into a very rich compost.

$3 for 25lbs and you can get it delivered; email me for Tom's phone number out of Caldwell.

If you want to find worm castings in another state the best way is to go through the yellow pages looking for a bait supplier. Call the bait supplier and ask them if they sell the worm castings. If they have worm bait, they have worm castings. My experience has been they usually are not very interested in talking to you about it until you offer to pick it up and pay for it. Then they start to get interested.

The pricing for worm castings should be similar to what Tom is selling his castings. Keep in mind that night crawler castings are much larger and courser so you will need to mix it with organic material and top soil and grind it up a bit by flipping it with a shovel over and over.

The fresher the castings the better. If they put the castings in a plastic bag with no oxygen the micro-organisms and good bacteria that we want from the castings will die. So try to get it fresh after they've harvested the worms and transfer it to your garden or compost pile as quickly as possible.

This will over winter fine, so get these castings at any time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

year round gardner

I really love this book by Niki Jabbour on year round gardening in in NOVA SCOTIA...if she can do it, so can we. This is my first year experimenting with it. The book is excellently laid out and illustrated to not just talk it but teach it, I highly recommend.
book on year round gardening
What makes this book so valuable is she is not just teaching it but doing it. The photos are excellent and the graphs on what plants to use at what times is a guide you'll keep forever.
One of my questions about this process was the lack of water. We can't water because our hoses will freeze up. I asked Niki on her blog site and she responded that there is enough humidity under the covers that she has never had a problem with water.
I tried the process and my soil was very dry because we had a very dry December and start to January. In which case I do believe you need to bucket some warm water over and check the soil dampness with a gauge.
If you are serious about gardening and healthy food, you have to find a process for year round gardening and you have to purchase this book.
I didn't like the second book as well as this first one and I think you can get all you need out of the first book.

Monday, October 21, 2013

TOO DRY a Fall

DRY...DRY...DRY...Make  sure you are watering your evergreens well in this long Fall dry spell so they are hydrated for the long winter where they will still be transpiring and working.

The best way to do this  is with a soaker hose
watering trees
When a plant waters in nature it usually is with rain or snow. Both of these will move slowly into the ground. Rain falls on the leaves and slowly drips down to the ground, the design is to slow down that water drop and let it move more gradually onto the surface. Flooding or pounding water is not what a tree wants.
I like soaker hoses because we can leave them on for two days and let the water seep into the ground. Keep in mind the tree roots are no more than eight to ten inches below the surface taking advantage of organic material and oxygen. Great link on Tree Roots and how they work. That is where we want the water. If it goes below that level the tree will probably not get it. Trees are not like perennial plants in that they do not send down a tap root to get water. They want it from a net work root system all around the drip pattern of the tree canopy.
When checking how wet it is around your tree, go down the first six inches and see what your reading is, then another four inches. You'll see a big difference the deeper you go in that it is wetter the deeper you go. Wind desiccates the upper two inches quickly so do not test that area when determining how much you've watered.
As a general rule you can deep soak for that twenty four hours once a week but check the gauge and make sure it is drying out during that time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Most improved Garden for 2013

new garden
Doing Deep Root Injections on the Trees this year I couldn't help but admire the huge improvement and work Julie Bingham had put into her garden. I think she gets the award for best improved Garden this year...fantastic job!

She did a series of raised beds surrounded by gravel. The fruit trees were well spaced for room to grow and everything is on two separate drip systems.

The thing to keep in mind about raised beds is she will need to feed them at a later date with a worm compost tea and every year fresh soil should be cycled into the beds.

The location was wise for full sun throughout the day which is so important in getting the harvest done before fall.

We will be talking about some fall plantings too. Every year we seem to be getting longer an longer falls that are warm and able to grow fall plants such as beats and kale.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ahhh! finally the fall cool down

Looks like the cool down is finally coming. This will spark a lot of work we've talked about such as deep root tree feeds. Remember if you are not using our GTM not let a lawn company pump nitrogen in around your trees.

Our Tri-blend is a mix of Save A Tree (Thrive in Zamzows stores), Worm compost tea and a fertilizer mix made by Dr.Brennan for these Boise area soils.

This takes a special type of equipment and the ability to oxygenate the living organisms in the tank when it is being brewed over a three day period...a bit of a time burner but well worth it...just look at our trees :)

tank for feeding trees
This system uses a diaphragm pump which provides 60 psi of pressure. As the probe goes into the ground the fertilizer is injected laterally at that high pressure which helps fracture the ground and push the material in a more even pattern throughout the root structure.
If you use a system like this you do not need as much material because you are not losing so much from being tied up in the organic material at the surface or competing grass roots above the tree roots.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

So what is Worm Tea

worm composting
Living organisms depend on a balanced loop to be able to acquire nutrients and water. Worms in the soil are key to creating that biological relationship.

There is a lot of talk about "Compost Tea" including a professor in Washington that I've heard people quote as saying that the Tea do not work. That is not what she said, her main point was there is no standard as to how the tea is made. So dry old compost made into tea is far different than living organisms from worm castings. And that is absolutely right. She was also addressing spraying the tree with the tea...not injecting the root system. And her conclusions were about compost tea NOT having the ability to stop disease or pests, which again is absolutely correct. However, she was not disclaiming the fact that fertilizer put on the roots of plants from Compost tea is amazingly beneficial in creating very healthy plants.
Here is the article.

Here are articles on how well Compost tea correctly produced has worked.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Using a small Stump Grinder

I got tired of having to work around scheduling a dozen grinds to be able to pay the $120 rental fee so I bought a small stump grinder.

If you are renting a stump grinder keep in mind these smaller model are better for surface grinds and taking out surface roots.

These machines are tough on the body without a doubt. Pretty basic principle, you are spinning a grinding wheel and taking a little bit off at a time so it is tedious.

Here is a video of the process.

Do not grind surface roots on living trees. Damage to living tree roots will introduce bacteria and other fungal diseases that can eventually kill the tree.

If you have roots showing it usually is because you are over watering. It is better to cover these roots with sand and let the grass grow above them.

Keep in mind you will create a lot of saw dust. This is excellent mulch to use in your garden and if you see a tree service nearby doing a stump grind, go ask them if you can have that mulch. They are usually glad to not have to deal with it and it is the best compost addititive I have ever used.

Discharge from Tree wound

We've talked about pruning to the branch collar before but here is an example of what can happen when you don't.
improper pruning wound
For some reason even after I edit this shot wants to come in sideways but you can still see the poor pruning wound and the bacteria it allowed into the tree.

Once that branch collar has been removed, the tree has no way to heal itself. This is now a open wound for the life of the tree which has already become horribly infected with bacteria. The oozing is the tree trying to get rid of the disease by flushing it out. But what is going to happen is the bacteria will start to break down the cell tissue and introduce rot inside the tree.

This heart rot will decay the interior of the tree which is dangerous because we can't see the extent of the decay. Trees like this will continue to grow higher but without the sound wood inside to support the structure. At some point the wind will snap the tree.

There are ways to test the tree's integrity by finding out how much sound wood is still inside the tree.

Painting the wound will not help. They should not even be selling wound dressing paint any more because university studies have proven it actually inhibits the cells ability to heal the wound.

Another tell tale sign the bacteria is rotting the interior of the tree is what is called a conk or mushroom growing out of the side of the tree. These mushroom looking growths will form when there is a lot of dead and decaying wood inside a tree. This is a sure sign you need to be suspicious of the trees structural integrity.

A tree actually can continue to stand with the interior rotted out. I have a customer with a tree that you can stand up in, (if the raccoon that likes to live there will let you). The tree is very old and the outer wood that is living is doing a good job of keeping the tree erect. However, we know that this tree is very acceptable to failure and have pruned it to make sure it is less likely to do damage.

So make sure you study the correct way to prune off a limb, leaving the branch collar.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Portable Garden

For those of you who've been waiting - finally I have a working proto-type of the Self-contained Garden Cart and it is fantastic to use...
garden cart
I will put more details on it under the Health Page above but in short...
Self Contained watering system with a automatic timer, simply attach the quick release hose and it waters every day. Self fertilizing system in the irrigation. SO easy to use at waist height, easy to roll into the best sunlight, greenhouse ability and grow light ability. This is finally it, I LOVE it. My wife and I are ordering two more, the raised garden beds will be planted in flowers so no more back aches and knee bruises.

UPDATE: It has been over a year and the garden cart continues to work great. I can't begin to share how nice it is to simply empty the containers, put in fresh amended soil, press in the seeds and I'm done. Because I can get it into the direct sun out on my driveway I had new sprouts in three days. This is such a blessing to work with.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garden at waist level

As a lot of you know I am on a mission to help residents raise organic food with restored nutrients though fresh food...I am working on the Garden Kart (basically a portable version of the Garden Inn) but if you have a good spot for it, the Garden Inn shown here is a great start and this is the best price I've seen for it.

raised garden


I believe we have to make gardening easier on our bodies. A majority of our population is in their sixties now and these folks have the time to garden but bodies that really do hurt with the old way of gardening.

These raised beds are so nice to use and so much easier on our bodies. However we do have to fertilizer them every few weeks with an organic feed.

You can use miracle grow but check the label for added nutrients. The main reason we are gardening is to get those nutrients into our bodies for better health. So the plant must be able to get what we need in iron, magnesium, potassium and other micro-nutrients.

This kind of raised bed works well with vertical garden ideas. All of this is easier to manage insect control, bird issues and fungal disease in that it is not on the ground where there is access to the plant.

I spray the bottom of the unit or you can use organic methods like egg shells around the bottom to stop critters from climbing up.

Watering is important but because it is small and at waist level it is easier to do.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


I get calls about a small annoying little bug getting into homes that looks like a small Box Elder bug, stinks when crushed and swarms though every small crack or conduit opening into the house.
Especially in West Emmett, Payette and Ontario this probably is the Elm Seed Bug
I can spray them directly but the next batch coming in will need to be sprayed again. It's important to "bug proof" your home - see the latest info on these new intruders(click here)

Tips for the heat

Raise your mower as high as you can now so grass can retain water, shade the root and survive the heat.

Use a water probe to see just how wet your trees and shrubs are - too much water is as bad as too little so on the off days the water saturation should lower.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Time for fruit tree spray


It is a tough year to be exact but even with those terrible winds in the Treasure Valley it looked like petal drop was ten days ago which brings us to about the time to start the spray schedule for fruit trees.

If you have any questions
(existing clients we've done past work for only please)
contact me at

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tree Well

A trees number one enemy is that lawn mower or line trimmer damaging the cambium layer just below the bark. This is the area that carries nutrients and water. The second enemy is the grass growing around the roots competing for water and nutrients.
Simple solution is to use Glyphosate
(Round-up type product) to create a tree well -  simply spray it and let it die back (you can use the line trimmer to get rid of the dry dead grass look and get down to the thatch brown look)

Idea for Wasp Traps

A new thing I'm doing for Wasp control customers this year that I thought I'd share the do it yourselfer is using Paper Lanterns over those ugly looking Wasp Trap bottles and bags.

I looks more attractive and the Wasp naturally want to use it.
I do use darker colors like black because they also gravitate to heat.

If you want me to do it for you I include it in my $39 service 3x a year.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fruit Tree Spray Schedule

This up and down weather is slowing some of the problems we saw last year in Fire Blight and insects but we are getting near time to be ready to spray your fruit trees or set out traps.

D&B is carrying the Codling Moth traps which I would suggest getting on your fruit trees if you are trying to go organic as possible. If you have had serious pest issues in the past you'll probably need to spray to get a-head of the problem.

 Codling Moth Traps on Amazon

Here is a link for timing Fruit Tree Spray Timing

This is a link really for February Organic Copper and Lime Sulfur work but I like how it shows home owners spraying fruit trees and how simple it is Home Owners Back Yard Spraying

Link for products and timing Timing and Products


This product I have used; it's inexpensive and is available at Crop Production Services on Hwy 20/26 just before Caldwell; ask for Tom Gritzmacher or at Amazon Gordons Fruit Tree at Amazon

  Fruit Tree Spray

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Box Elder Bugs

Box Elder bug facts

They do not bite or sting
there was a Box Elder tree in the area at some time
Love heated areas
Can get into your home through very small cracks
The Exterior Pest Control will take care of these pests along with earwigs, spiders, ants etc.


I have been in dozen yards the last few days in terrible shape for water.

Idaho has a bad habit of going from winter (skip spring) to the heat of summer.
Plants caught dehydrated as the heat hits often never recover.
Get that water on those trees and plants as soon as you can and keep it up.
Also keep in mind wind desiccates plants as fast as heat!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Junipers out of control

This is a good time of year to get on top of those frankenshrubs

Hedge pruning followed by layering with hand pruners needs to be done every year. If you wait too long it may be time to remove them.

Folks are usually afraid to start over but once the old shrub is out they are always glad they did it.

Another option is to turn those tall ugly shrubs into a form of topiary design. It's a lot of work and time consuming but can be attractive. A job like this is usually around $235.

One of the tools I use to accomplish this is a less expensive $200 chainsaw with the new PowerSharp by Oregon attachment for $50 that allows you to sharpen the chain every few minutes (you will dull the chain every few minutes due to the dirt and debris that has turned organic inside the shrub over the years - the PowerSharp is the only way I've found to quickly get back into action plus it will cut directly into the Junipers and not catch and snag as badly. Be careful however in that the chain can bind and fly off and chainsaws inherently cut flesh as fast or faster than wood :)

Links to Hedge Pruning

STRONGLY suggest a Spider/Wasp control spray application before doing any work, the worse spider bites I have had have been doing this work, it's only $39 for the entire house so it's worth it. Email me if you have any questions

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fruit Tree Spray

Note the Fruit Tree Spray timing information and links folks have been asking for is now at the top of the page.

Timing Calendar

The Timing Calendar I give to local customers is a way to make sure you don't miss any applications that are time sensitive such as pre-emergent or pruning times

Simply fold it and stand it up on your counter - when you notice that the week you are in has a yellow highlight - open it  up and read that months notes on what should be done at this time of year.
If you are a local customer and have not received one let me know.